September 30, 2015
We have reached the end of September and we are still short a lot of rainfall. As I write this on Sunday night, the forecast is for rain mid week and maybe some on the weekend. All that I am sure of is that we desperately need some rain.
Week after week, I have been telling you that your shrubs need a good soaking each week. Many of you have not done the watering that your shrubs need. It may be the procrastination gene we all have, it may be water restrictions in your community. What I can tell you for sure, if we have an open winter where the shrubs don’t get buried in snow, the dry winter winds will suck the life out of your broadleaf evergreens, rose bushes and your hydrangeas.
At this point I would tell you to plan on covering your shrubs with burlap or you may chose to apply an anti – desiccant spray. This spray on wax will cut your moisture loss by 30 to 50 %. Wilt Pruf is the most recognized brand that you will find in independently owned garden centers. Wilt Pruf is applied when temperatures are above 40 degrees and it must be applied early enough in the day to dry while the sun is out. The product needs ultraviolet light to set up properly. If you did not mulch your shrubs this past season, the application of mulch in the fall can minimize the damage to plant roots by a freezing and thawing cycle during an open winter. Yes I have heard all the predictions that say this will be a worse winter than last winter or it will be a snowy and cold winter. All I truly know is this, if you don’t protect your plants this fall and you don’t get water on the shrubs this fall, you run a very good chance of having major damage to your shrubs from a cold and windy winter.
Some of you may have had a frost on Sunday morning. It was 36 degrees at our house and while walking the dog I saw all kind of frost that settled on the open fields. If this happened in your yard, you can cut back your perennials and dig up your annuals. If you escaped the frost, you will eventually have to do this fall chore. Once the flowerbeds have died back and the cold puts your shrubs into dormancy, it is a good idea to apply some phosphorous around your shrubs. Phosphorous will help to build strong roots this fall and will be used by your flowering plants next spring to develop new flower buds. When applying phosphorous, you should use triple super phosphate. This is a 44% phosphorous so a little goes a long way. Once you have the phosphorous on your perennial beds, an application of lime will help the perennials to flower better next year. Your vegetable garden will benefit from an application of lime this fall. Once you get all the old vegetable plants out, you can also add some garden fertilizer to the soil and you can lightly rake the fertilizer into the soil.
Every fall, I get people coming into the store saying, “ I cut my rhododendrons back “ or some of the other spring flowering shrubs. Spring flowering shrubs can be pruned back right after they are done flowering. The spring flowering shrubs have set their flower buds by now for next year. If you prune these plants back in the fall, you are cutting out the flowers for 2016.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.